George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin, has fallen on hard times. Zimmerman was the darling of the right wing echo chamber while he was on trial for killing Martin, a young African-American. Mark O'Meara, a high-powered, high-cost lawyer, defended him against the charge of murder without asking for any money up front. Thousands of fans of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and their ilk, sent money to Zimmerman's defense fund. The man himself was regularly seen on tv, declaring his innocence to all the world. And Zimmerman was acquitted.
Now, Zimmerman is on trial again. This time he is accused of aggravated battery, domestic violence battery, and criminal mischief. Zimmerman says he is indigent and has debts of $2 million. He is also involved in a divorce case in which his wife initially claimed he assaulted her and pulled a gun on her, but his wife decided not to press charges in that case.
Mark O'Meara, the high-priced lawyer who successfully defended Zimmerman in the Martin case, has stated that he is no longer Zimmerman's lawyer. Very probably it is he to whom Zimmerman owes $2 million. The donations from right-wingers have dried up. Zimmerman is on his own.
Aggravated assault is a class 3 felony under Florida state law. The crucial piece of this felony is the charge that Zimmerman brandished a gun before pushing his girlfriend out of the apartment. Under mandatory sentencing laws, the minimum sentence for conviction of this crime is 5 years in prison.
Zimmerman's behavior after his acquittal on murder charges shows just how broken the criminal justice system is right now in Florida. Criminal penalties are supposed to deter people from committing crimes. When the justice system allows people to escape punishment for crimes they obviously commit--no one disputes that Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin to death--the laws have just the opposite effect. People are encouraged to commit crimes since they can see that criminals go unpunished.
Since his acquittal, Zimmerman has been involved in two violent incidents involving allegations of using firearms.
Florida's system of criminal justice is broken. Its "stand your ground law should be repealed. Its mandatory minimum penalties should be repealed. Its "three strikes" law should be repealed. The penalties Florida exacts on people who have served time in prison need to be seriously diminished, including its refusal to let ex-felons vote.
This post partly based on reports from NBC News.